Recently, I had the privilege to lead a meet-and-greet session with a group of vibrant, carefree and gung-ho Gen Y. This session was organised to get a snapshot of Gen Y’s view on the way human resources (HR) works in their organisation – to be specific, the HR dos and don’ts.
As a HR practitioner myself, it is vital for me to understand how Gen Y thinks and feels in the workplace, what their personal and career expectations are, and most importantly, what they want out of HR.
I started the session by asking the participants what they like and don’t like about HR. These were the answers and the elaboration provided:
1. HR manages payroll on time – we need money to pay bills and fund our lifestyle.
2. HR organises employee engagement programmes and activities – we want parties and fun at work.
1. HR likes to impose unnecessary policies, rules and regulations – we are humans with feelings, and not just an asset.
2. HR is inclined to see issues only at the micro level – we must “think in and out of the box”.
3. HR is sometimes not transparent – we want trust, not FRUSTration.
4. HR has only the company and management’s interests in mind – we work with the company and not for the company.
5. HR is not fair – we want equality and not dissimilarity of practices.
6. HR is like a politician – we want HR leadership of the people, by the people, and for the people.
7. HR is very rigid and ‘calculative’ – we want flexibility.
8. HR must upgrade their people skills – HR = RH; RH means respect humans)
During the tea break, I read through my notes. Two likes and eight dislikes. Wow, they really hate HR. I was taken aback at the feedback shared and how frustrated the participants were towards HR’s way of work (they claimed that HR’s current knowledge, skills and aptitude are still not up to the ‘new world of work’ standards).
I could see their dissatisfaction and hear it from the tone of their voice. I guess in their minds, there is nothing that HR can do – HR is a follower, not a leader.
My confidence was at stake. I wondered how much they knew about HR… or how little they knew. I needed to find out more about their HR concerns in the workplace.
In order to get the participants’ active involvement for the next session, I decided not to proceed with the presentation of my slides as I believed they would prefer to be on their mobile phones, texting and ‘Instagramming’.
I divided the participants into five groups and told them to list what they thought HR should do or change for the better. The outcome of their presentation are as follows:
1. HR policies
HR should remove all the unnecessary and annoying policies, such as the 5-minute tea break, no eating during working hours, dress-down Fridays, no music during working hours, replacement hours for time taken off, no using Facebook and YouTube during working hours, and other policies that kill employee morale. Replace them with more value-added HR policies that foster productivity and inclusion.
2. Performance appraisal
HR should display the scores for all individuals so that all employees can view them. Employees want transparency and fairness of the appraisal scoring within and outside of their departments, so that they can then seek justification from their superior and/or HR if they find that the scores are too high or too low for certain employees.
Gen Y believes that performance reviews can be thought of as a positive interaction between superior-employee, superior-superior, employee-employee, and management-superior-employee, and not a ‘closed door’ exercise.
3. Employment terms
Gen Y concurred that working hours should not be confined to the standard 9am-5pm. Employees are to be given the flexibility in deciding their working hours as long they fulfil the 48-hours-per-week requirement. This also applies to lunch breaks. Employees want to eat lunch at any time they want – they are not willing to starve themselves till the designated lunch hour!
4. Recruitment and selection
Gen Y feels they should be invited to join selected interview sessions at the departmental level. They want to ensure the new colleague(s) they will be working alongside are aligned with the personality and culture of the team. This will speed up the on-boarding and socialisation process for the new employee.
5. Compensation and benefits
Gen Y suggested that increment and bonus rewards should not be solely based on individual performance, but on team performance instead. There should be no more A+, A, B, B-, C or D grading for each employee – they are not labelled products.
Humans do make mistakes, no one is perfect. Besides, the grading of an employee’s performance is often manipulated for office political purposes namely, ‘appraisal politics’.
6. Training and learning
Gen Y is very excited about organising forums and discussion groups around topics. They enjoy having facilitators who make them think and find solutions. They want to contribute and make changes. Now is the time to unlearn to learn and relearn.
7. HR leadership
Gen Y expects HR teams to be more open minded and empathetic, utilising the Six Thinking Hats approach when dealing with people issues. They should also be excellent lobbyists and dedicated change advocates.
Stop saying: “This is company policy, so we must …”, instead, practise saying “Let me see what I can do about it.”
There are more points, but I only picked those that I think are appropriate for HR practitioners’ (myself included) attention. This activity was not about tackling their dissatisfaction nor fulfilling their HR wish list, but to understand how Gen Y thinks and feels their HR teams could make the workplace better.
This feedback provides a glimpse into how Gen Y views HR, and I can say that they reflect a bad opinion of HR. How sad and devastating. Unfortunately, bad HR teams do exist out there – but there are also many great HR teams doing their very best.
Why do employees love to hate HR and what can HR do about it? My answer is simple: People don’t hate HR, they only misunderstand HR.
My personal advice to the HR community, HR believers and HR dreamers: We must be very aware of what’s happening in the people business and be able to take these essentials and translate it into what it means for HR, and then create a plan to implement them. HR’s role is all about educating, helping and developing others.
Here are some HR approaches we can implement in the new HR ways of work:
• Practise participative HR decision making
• Perform HR outreach initiatives
• Champion HR storytelling
• Have the ‘Yes, it’s possible’ mindset
• Be flexible
• Build trust
• Be an active listener
Last but not least, here are three successful HR key words to remember on the go: agility, empower and engage.
Before I ended the session, one participant asked me why I am in HR. My reply to him was this: “I’m in HR because I like working with people. The journey for me is to help teach people how to use HR. Please go give your HR team a big hug and appreciation for what they do. Don’t be surprised, they may surprise you back”.